With Democrats holding the White House and Republicans controlling both chambers of Congress, can criminal justice reform beat the odds against any major legislation becoming law over the next two years? The Huffington Post says it might. “It is on my list of things that are in the sphere of the possible,” said a top Obama administration official who discussed the president’s legislative priorities on condition of anonymity. “We are going to work hard at it … Putting a bipartisan imprint on sentencing reform would be a big achievement.”
Some high-profile Republicans share the objective. Libertarian-leaning Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has been open about his concern with racial disparities in incarceration rates. Paul, who is likely to run for president in 2016, may reason that it’s in his interest to have a major legislative victory along with bipartisan credentials under his belt. Paul has introduced five bills dealing with everything from scaling back mandatory minimum sentencing to civil asset forfeiture reform to shielding medical marijuana businesses from federal intervention. He teamed up with Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) to introduce the REDEEM Act, aimed at reducing the national prison population. Booker said he has indications from GOP senators that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who will take over as majority leader, is taking the issue seriously.